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Friday, July 30, 2004

If WW2 had gone the other way, you might have to find yr way around the London Underground using this map. "For you, Englanders, ze war is over ..."

Thursday, July 29, 2004

Really getting on very happily with the iPod these days: the device has a way of worming itself into your affections. To anyone who hasn't yet joined the Podlings, all I can say is "Come aboard".


USAGE: “When I was young and irresponsible ... (long pause) ... I was young and irresponsible.”

A quotation from George W. Bush, usually featuring mangled syntax, statement of the obvious, or reduction to the absurd - but somehow creating a distinctive sense of “well, I know what he’s trying to get at”.

ORIGIN: George W. Bush was, somewhat contentiously, elected to the office of the Presidency of the United States, in the year 2000.

BACKGROUND: His “jes’ folks” delivery was swiftly seized on by enemies and friends alike as evidence of total gormlessness or idiot savant grasp of the Zeitgeist, depending on your camp. Some samples:

"If you don't stand for anything, you don't stand for anything!"
"They said this issue wouldn't resignate with the People. They've been proved wrong, it does resignate."
"A surplus means there'll be money left over. Otherwise, it wouldn't be called a surplus."
"Families is where our nation finds hope, where wings take dream."
"If I'm the president, we're going to have emergency-room care, we're going to have gag orders."
"Drug therapies are replacing a lot of medicines as we used to know it."
"It's one thing about insurance, that's a Washington term."
"I think we ought to raise the age at which juveniles can have a gun."
"Quotas are bad for America. It's not the way America is all about."
"If affirmative action means what I just described, what I'm for, then I'm for it."
"Our priorities is our faith."
"I think if you know what you believe, it makes it a lot easier to answer questions. I can't answer your question."
"I would have my secretary of treasury be in touch with the financial centers, not only here but at home."
... I've been talking to Vicente Fox, the new president of Mexico... I know him... to have gas and oil sent to U.S.... so we'll not depend on foreign oil... "
"I know the human being and fish can coexist peacefully."
"I will have a foreign-handed foreign policy."
"One of the common denominators I have found is that expectations rise above that which is expected."
"...more and more of our imports are coming from overseas."
"A tax cut is really one of the anecdotes to coming out of an economic illness."
"The best way to relieve families from time is to let them keep some of their own money."
"They have misunderestimated me as a leader."

Monday, July 26, 2004

Only in today's America: a new program to safeguard airports by rounding up volunteers to patrol the perimeters on horseback: The Reg discusses this somwhat loony, Reaganish idea here.


A hiatus is in the house: A's mum, Y, passed on last Monday, and we're seeing her off about now. The following will be read on her behalf at tomorrow's funeral:

Art, beauty and truth were closely related for Yvonne.

The words of the Japanese poet and philosopher, Yanagi Soetsu, express this:

Eloquence and Silence are one:
without both, there is nothing.

Passing time cannot effect an object that is truly beautiful.

There are many ways of seeing,
but the truest, and the best, is with the intuition
for it takes in the whole,
whereas the intellect takes in only part.

Beauty is a kind of mystery,
which is why
it cannot be grasped adequately through the intellect.

Stephen Hawking formally conceded a bet with fellow scientists that black holes swallow everything - now he apparently believes that they may release information in periodic fluctuations. Wired writes the announcement up here.

Friday, July 16, 2004

Moved over to the Mozilla Firefox browser from IE today, and so far everything seems to be working as normal or better.

Thursday, July 15, 2004

(Spotted on Slate) Bushism for the Day: "To you, it's sushi. To me, it's bait."
And to me, it tastes pretty good with wasabi and pickled ginger, and washed down with saki.

Yesterday was not a good day, but a couple of things came right. I got my wheels back after a timer chain outage (ouch!), and the iPod came to life after my PC guardian angel installed a FireWire card. A couple of hours shuffling CDs, and the wee beastie slurped up a huge quantity of music.

ISM for the Day:

TRAIT, APPROACH: A rooted tendency to slavishly copy the work of others rather than come up with something original.

ORIGIN: Kittens learn by observing and copying their mother.

BACKGROUND: As cats have fascinated humans since at least the time of the ancient Egyptians, copycat has a litter of cattisms to keep it company. Here is a selection:

a cat may look at a king; arguing like cats and dogs; cat among the pigeons; cat and mouse; cat burglar; cat got your tongue; cat on a hot tin roof; catnap; cat-o-nine-tails; cat's cradle; cat's eye; catcalls; cat's laugh; cat's pajamas; cat's paw; cat's whiskers; catty remarks; catwalk; cool cat; curiosity killed the cat; fat cat; grinning like a Cheshire cat; let sleeping cats lie; like herding cats; look what the cat dragged in; more than one way to skin a cat; not enough room to swing a cat; raining cats and dogs; scaredy-cat; see which way the cat jumps; the cat's out of the bag; the cat that got the cream; when the cat's away, the mice will play.

Wednesday, July 14, 2004

Dept. of New Words. Here's two.

"The GGs herfed a US Hummer outside Kerbala today."

GGs are Global Guerrillas (Al Queda et Al to you and me).
Herfing is the use of new High Energy Radio Frequency (microwave, to you and me) devices to short out electric circuits, fry on-board computer chips, and generally screw up vehicles and their occupants. Not yet actually in play by GGs, but analysts believe that day is not far off. More about "the new AK47" here.

Druid busted for carrying sword. Place of arrest: Wilkinson Hardware. And I like the bit: "The sword, named Talisen, has been confiscated by police as evidence." Nice to see the plod keeping us safe from those sword-wielding druid types.

A pretty silly story of greed. Warner Brothers are trying to sue someone for using a domain called shiremail (because the Shire is a place in LOTR). Never mind that the site sells e-mail related software: no danger to Warner's sales of Tolkien-related plastic crap going on here. The Reg dissects this tomfoolery, and has a hilarious link to the reply of Groucho Marx when Warner Brothers tried this tack on with him over making "A Night in Casablanca".

Tuesday, July 13, 2004

ISM for the Day:

DOCTRINE: (politics) The argument that the only way to rule humans is with a rod of iron.

ORIGIN: Latin, auctoritas, authority, from auctor, originator.

BACKGROUND: Authoritarian politics is a notch down from totalitarianism, the most extreme vision of control of the people by the government. Even organisations which consider themselves lily-white on the coercion front - such as various Churches - can be seen as authoritarian by their members: unlike totalitarianism, authoritarianism does not use naked physical force, relying instead on the less intrusive techniques of legal and moral pressure. Another contrast between authoritarianism and totalitarianism is that the former doesn’t seek to keep track of every individual unless they show themselves as a threat to the status quo. It could be argued that revolutionary (and insecure) totalitarian regimes over time mature into conservative (and watchful) authoritarian regimes.

The contrast between authoritarian and non-authoritarian regimes is the extent to which authoritarianism involves itself in matters of personal choice. Most political systems fence off an area of moral choice as “private life”. Authoritarianism invades that domain, if not quite as spectacularly as totalitarianism.

One set of arguments for authoritarianism is economic: the quondam “young tigers” of the Asian economy (South Korea, Singapore, Malaysia and Taiwan) boosted the positive aspects of their political style while their economies boomed. This particular drumbeat has been quieter since the regional economic crash of 1998. And the region has provided examples (Indonesia and the Philippines), where the authoritarian approach has not led inevitably to economic success. Europe has also provided examples (Cold War Eastern Europe, Franco’s Spain) where authoritarianism spectacularly under-performed in putting bread in the mouths of the people.

If the above ism rang any bells with you, go and do the quiz at, which will let you know where you stand on the political compass.

Confirmed that there's no chance of getting a Firewire card into a laptop: either it comes pre-fitted or they don't fit. And the USB connector I've located only works if you own an iPod mini, or have one with a dock, which my entry-level yoke doesn't. So more foooey on getting the iPod up to life ... I'll have to buy both a dock AND an USB connector to get it talking to the laptop. Two chances of this happening anytime soon ...

I'll have a Firewire port on the home PC, hopefully come Wednesday (turns out it's only 27 bucks anyway). Don't see much chance of getting one into the laptop. Apple obviously have a good grudge match going against PC standards like the USB - remember how they ditched floppy drives from the iMac?

Happy birthday, Bucky! The US postal service commemorates Buckminister Fuller on the 50th. anniversary of the invention of the geodesic dome. Good graphics idea (dome = head) and a cool retro "50's sci-fi" look.

The race for the X-prize is still on: there are some crafty Canadians playing catch-up because Rutan didn't repeat his space flight within the necessary 2 weeks - I notice the Canucks are funded by Sun and AutoDesk - surely no co-incidence given that MS zillionaire Paul Allen is the moneybags behind Rutan.

Monday, July 12, 2004

The iPod arrived Friday but came with a Firewire connection (and my machines only have USB, which was the reason I ordered a USB connector, not the one for Firewire. First strike against Apple!). The solution: get Firewire card into the PC (I'll need it for Digital Video editing down the line whe I finally get a Sony DCR-DVD201E (stockists 0870 511 1999), Final Cut Pro and a DVD burner), and order a USB connector so the iPod can also talk to the laptop. I'll track this one on the blog, I've a feeling the story will run and run...

Twas a bit of a non-weekend with crappy lo-motivation weather - blowy, humid, fitful sunshine and heavy showers, and feeling a bit whacked after recent exertions both in the garden and with weight training. Still, several things should start to resolve in the coming weeks. Getting the car back from the car surgeons will be a big boost.

Tuesday, July 5, 2004

Ordered an iPod today from Apple on-line. I've been itching to do so for some time. It's just the 15 GB model but that's a lot of disk space to start off with. I must order a copy of the Missing Manual while I'm about it.

Monday, July 4, 2004

"We've got some exciting work cut out for us." Cassini flies past Saturn's moon, Titan, and NASA files its initial reports. Their astronomers are buzzing, by the sounds of it.

I've always felt instinctively that front wheel drives suck. Here's the engineering reasons why. And here's one more.

Great weekend working in the garden, weeding is always a top priority at summer's height - blink and an Irish vegetable patch turns to jungle after a drought-ending rain. We're eating our first spuds - delicious as ever.

An anniversary slipped by yesterday - 15 years working in the IT industry: I started with Retix on July 3rd. 1989, fresh and shiny-faced with a Grad. Dip. in Computing from Limerick University. I worked as a tech writer for data communications software, developed for a standard called OSI.
Looking back, the following points are instructive:

  • Nobody I knew outside work had heard of the Internet, which we used all the time to communicate with head office in Santa Monica. No-one outside the American Defence industry and the aerospace sector seemed interested in what we were developing.
  • The water cooler in the office was a radical new idea imported from the Californian HQ.
  • There were no PCs to speak of in the office. Everyone worked off green terminals attached to a VAX, which had its own airconditioned den. Except us tech writers, who had Macs with massive black-and-white screens, each costing about as much as a new car (about 6 or 7 thousand quid at the time).
  • Everyone I knew who actually owned a car drove bangers. 12,000 a year felt like a salary. Charley Haughey was the main man.
  • For a brief while, I fitted one definition of a hacker: the computer equipment I personally owned (one of those high end Macs) had a monetary value far in excess of the car I drove (a ratty old Renault 4).
  • It came to seem normal to work long into the night, and at weekends, to meet crushing deadlines.
  • Only fat cats owned mobiles, and they were about the size of a brick.
  • The Web hadn't been invented yet - it only hit mass market in 1994 or so.
  • The standards we worked on at the time are obsolete - the Internet replaced them.
  • We took the company public long before anyone had heard of IPOs, dot-com booms, and the Celtic Tiger. Like many to come after it, the company made fortunes for the investors (and even a few quid for us lowly hacks, from stock options - mostly blown on computer hardware, see above). And like many after it, the company came down like a test pilot punching a hole in the desert. Crash and burn, baby! And then go off and start a new one ...

Friday, July 2, 2004

ISM for the Day

USAGE: A mode of speech peculiar to Latin; a Latin phrase used commonly by English speakers.

ORIGIN: Latin, Latinus, of Latium.

BACKGROUND: Though Latin is not taught as widely in the 21st century as it was in the 19th, many Latin phrases survive in common use, mainly because they express an idea more pithily and precisely than any English equivalent. Here are some sample Latinisms:

ad astra per aspera: to the stars through troubles
ad infinitum: onwards forever
ad nauseam: to the point of revulsion
alma mater: the old school (“beloved mother”)
alter ego: another personality
ante bellum: before the war (generally used of the American Civil War)
ars longa, vita brevis: art is long, life is short - the work is never done, but it lives after us
bona fide: in good faith, genuinely intended
carpe diem: seize the day
cave canem: beware of the dog
de facto: the actual facts, however unofficial
de iure: by right, legally
de mortuis nil nisi bonum: speak only good of the dead
dramatis personae: characters of a play
e pluribus unum: one out of many
"Et tu, Brute?": "Even you, Brutus?" (last words of Julius Caesar, synonymous with final betrayal)
exit; exeunt: he/she goes out; they go out
finis: the end
homo sapiens: human being: “the wise man”
in absentia: in absence, acting in place an absent person
in loco parentis: in the place of a parent (legal phrase for guardian)
in memoriam: to the memory of
ipso facto: by the fact itself
magnum opus: great work, masterpiece
modus operandi: method of working

non compos mentis: not possessing a (sound) mind
per annum: per year, yearly
per capita: per person
per diem: per day
per se: as such
persona non grata: an unwanted person
post mortem: after death
pro and con(tra): for and against
pro bono publico: for the public good
pro tem(porem): for the time being
quid pro quo: something for something, a favour returned
semper fidelis: forever faithful
sine die: indefinitely (“without a day”)
sine qua non: something essential
status quo: the current state of affairs
sub poena: a summons to court ("under penalty")
tempus fugit: time flies
terra firma: strong (or steady) earth, the dry land
"Veni, vidi, vici": "I came, I saw, I conquered" (said by Julius Caesar)
vice versa: the other way around
vox populi: the voice of the people

Thursday, July 1, 2004

Puppy love - by the hour: Dog rental is big in Japan.

ISM for the Day


TRAIT: Behaving like an ogre - an ugly, cannibalistic giant found in children’s tales.

ORIGIN: Old Norse, Yggr, Lord of Death, was one of the names of Odin, chief of the Nordic gods.

BACKGROUND: Strange as it may seem, the ogre that has terrified generations of children (“Fee, Fie, Foe, Fum! I smell the blood of an Englishman!”) has noble origins in the figure of Odin.

The Norse believed there were nine realms in the universe, including Asgard, home of the Aesir gods, and Midgard, or Middle Earth, where men lived. Taken together, these formed Yggdrasil, the giant Tree of Life.

Battles constantly raged between various realms, and the one that concerns us is a battle between the gods and the Jotuns, a powerful race of giants, even more ancient than the gods, which the Jotuns were inexorably winning. To find the knowledge needed to overcome them, Odin needed to consult the Norns, who were wise and very ancient indeed - even more ancient than the Jotuns. It was the Norns role to weave all of the actions in every realm into the tapestry of time.

On the advice of the Norns, Odin underwent an ordeal to achieve his magic powers. He allowed one of his eyes to be gouged out, and had himself hung upside down from the Tree of Life, and pierced with a spear. For undergoing this, the Norns would reward him with a draught from the well of Urd, whose waters nourished the Tree of Life and carried great magical power.

Since Nordic gods are not immortal, Odin soon died from the agony of his ordeal, and for nine days he hung lifeless from the tree. However, his spirit rode through the nine worlds on the eight-legged horse, Sleipner, who could pass through all barriers. In the end, after many experiences, the draught of Urd's water was granted to him, and Odin could now use magic, runes, and the gift of prophecy in the war against the giants, decisively turning the tide.

Unfortunately, Odin now knew, to his sorrow, that everything would come to an inevitable cataclysm: the final battle against the giants, Ragnarok, in which all the gods would perish. But he also knew that time was not yet, and threw all of his energy into continuing the war.

From this tale, we can decipher the meaning of Yggdrasil. Yggr was Odin’s title as Lord of Death, since he had overcome death and returned with great powers. Drasil has the twin meanings of “gallows” and “horse”, referring both to Odin’s hanging, and the steed that carried his spirit between the worlds.

Even up to the 10th century, human sacrifices were made to Odin - by hanging the victims upside down from a tree. It was natural for the early Christians to associate Odin with Satan, especially given the depredations of Odin-worshipping Vikings. Over time, the image of Odin, or Yggr, degraded from that of the noble god to the one-eyed, bloated Lord of Death, who eventually made his way into children’s stories and caused many a bedtime shiver.

posted by A Seeker after Knowledge 7:33 AM

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Living somewhere near here:

Lough Dan, Co. Wicklow, Ireland.
Click the piccie for a bigger version ...
Blogs we like
Blogcritics: news and reviews
William Gibson - he's back.
Dervala is a thought-provoking read.
William S. Lind military .... AND intelligent.
She's a Flight Risk ... and on the run.
North Atlantic Skyline: the West's awake
Informed Comment from an expert on Iraq
Karlin Lillington is on the move.
Quondam Confederate: Mark is in Malmo
Banana Republic Daze: is pithy and topical
Oblomovka in California
Textism: rarely updated, but succulent.
Melanie - this really is a blog.
Meanderthal Man - in search of the Missing Think.
Tom Chi making music in Seattle.
The Homeless Guy - out and about.
Babblogue is quirky.
The Agonist - somewhere in Texas (when he's not touring the Silk Road).
SlashDot - geek central.
BoingBoing - a directory of wonderful things.
Bernie Goldbach - is under way in Ireland.
Ideas Asylum - for insanely good ideas.
D2R - for tech talk.
Last Daze of Eamo - for an eye on the comics.
Tom Murphy - has a PR angle.
QuantumBlog - for scientific updates without all that Slashdot attitude shite.

Dept. of War-blogging Just to keep an eye on these guys and be reminded that the neo-cons aren't going away any time soon ...
Den Beste - good on engineering topics, rabid on everything else.
John Robb - war-blogging from the armchair (which is the closest to a war-zone most of these guys get).
Instapundit - for breaking news, and a right-wing take on same. "If you've got a modem, I've got a (bigoted) opinion".
Andrew Sullivan - a right-winger who writes well.
... and if you want to get the taste of these guys out of your mouth, visit: Press Action

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Just in case they ever come back to life, and to remind one of the perils of hiatus ....
Where is Raed? used to blog from Baghdad
Ilonina - was random.
Paulianne was diarying in Diois
Eric Raymond - an individual, but one who doesn't keep his site updated.

I live in Ireland, in a lovely part of the country called Aughrim in the county of Wicklow. I work in South Dublin - it's a long commute - but 2 days a week I work from home. Whenever possible, I walk with my dog Scooby (Scooby's a feisty Glen of Imaal terrier with loadsa character) under beautiful Croghane Mountain.
About the name Mulqueen Mulqueen is a Clare sept, first recorded as a bardic tribe in the annals of the Dal Cais in the 10th century. I'm from Limerick originally myself, and the name is mainly found in south Clare, North Tipperary, and Limerick East. The name is O'Maolchaoin in Gaelic - the "Maol" (as with all the many Irish surnames beginning in "Mul") means "bald". It doesn't mean there were a lot of hair-challenged gents back then! The tag refers to "tribes wearing horn-less helmets" - it wasn't just the Vikings who wore horns, many Irish tribes did too. The "chaoin" means "gentle" in the sense of well-bred (the sense that survives in "gentleman" or "gentility"). Presumably the bardic (poetic) activities are referred to here :-) Anyhow, some of us are still writing - there is a disproportionate number of Mulqueens working in Irish journalism. Heraldic elements in clan history generally tend to be much later additions, but for the record the Mulqueen coat of arms holds a lion and a heart, and the motto: "Fortiter et fideliter" - brave and true.
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